Preliminary investigations have zeroed in on a piece of insulation which chipped off from the shuttle shortly after lift-off. While NASA engineers had initially dismissed it as "inconsequential", later they realised it could throw new light on the crash. Now senior scientists at NASA, including programme manager Ron D. Dittemore, are talking about redoing the whole analysis.
The insulation broke off from the shuttle's external fuel tank and was roughly the size of a 20-inch television screen, six inches thick and weighed a little over one kg. Space shuttles are covered with an external lining of heat-resistant tiles which provide insulation from the extremely high temperatures of over 1,600 degrees Centigrade (subjected to during its re-entry into the earth's atmosphere).